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Watch Live: SpaceX launches world’s most powerful rocket

SpaceX launched its 500-foot-tall Starship, the world’s most powerful rocket, on a test flight Thursday morning, a major milestone for the company and the future of the U.S. space program.

The giant rocket lifted off the launch pad just minutes after Thursday’s launch window opened at 8:28 a.m. local time (9:28 a.m. ET) at the company’s flight test facility in Boca Chica, Texas.

SpaceX describes Starship as a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry cargo and crew into Earth orbit. It is designed to help humans return to the Moon and to Mars and beyond.


A SpaceX Starship rocket lifts off from the launch facility in Boca Chica, Texas on April 20, 2023.


“Through an experiment like this, success is measured by how much we can learn, which will inform and improve the potential for future success as SpaceX rapidly develops Starships,” SpaceX said.

The starship consists of a 230-foot-long starship “super heavy” first stage, powered by 33 methane-burning Raptor engines, and a bullet-shaped, 160-foot-long starship second stage armed with six Raptors. It has its own, as well as steerable fins on the nose and tail to control the ship during atmospheric re-entry from space. Two stages together can lift 100 tons into low-Earth orbit.

Both stages are designed to be fully reusable, coming down to a rocket-powered touchdown for refurbishment and relaunch. For the first test flight, however, SpaceX will not attempt to recover both stages.

Instead, the first stage is expected to fly to a “hard” landing in the Gulf of Mexico 20 miles or so from Boca Chica, where it will simply sink. After a ballistic flight nearly all the way around the planet, the starship is supposed to return to a devastating splashdown about 150 miles north of Hawaii.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk lowered expectations Sunday night in a Twitter “space” call to his customers.

“I want to keep expectations low,” he said. “If we get far enough away from the launch pad before something goes wrong, I guess we’ll consider it a success. Just don’t blow up the launch pad!”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

More William Harwood


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